UchiMusume – 07 – Looking at Things

Latina looks at stuff!
Some stuff people.
Some stuff food.
Some stuff even animated
but some stuff static…
like a stone.

What began as a soft touch culture-crossing adoption story, with safe romps into medieval’ish fantasy life has become uneventful beyond the point of watchability. The sum total of this week’s non-looking at stuff content was a chat with a demon musician lady, who explained that Latina’s bracelet had her the full length version of her father’s name. This is common practice amongst demons living in the first demon lord’s domain.

Also, apparently, there are a lot of demon lords out there, with political and social ramifications to their deeds. I doubt UchiMusume will ever get to them though and I don’t care if it does. I’m dropping this show like a stone!

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Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 06 – Getting a Grip

When will Nishikata learn that no amount of training will prepare him for the mind games Takagi plays on him? Not this week, as he revives their gym challenge (which he also lost last year). The thing is, even though he sucks at toe touches and fails the grip test due to imagining he’s holding her hand, Takagi still technically loses. She just gets him to admit defeat before she tells him he has a higher score. Better luck next year, I guess!

With Nishikata’s after-school committee work done and the class camping trip looming, Takagi picks up on his desire to leave school together (even though he doesn’t want it to look like he wants to, she reads his mind) and they practice one-on-one dodgeball. Again, Nishikata’s proficiency with dodging does him no good, as Takagi first tricks him by making him turn his back, then gets into the weeds about whether he’ll dodge or catch, causing him to ask, again and again, “We’re talking about dodgeball, right?”

When the three girls stop at a sweets shop after work for some snacks, a black-and-white cat inexplicably swipes a piece of candy Mina just gave to Yukari after her stomach growled, and the girls give enthusiastic chase through various obstacles. The athletic Sanae is the only one able to keep up, but when she finds the cat giving the snack to three adorable kittens, she gives up and tells the others she lost track of her. Clearly, the mama cat needed it more than Yukari!

Takagi and Nishikata end up at the same sweets shop, where Takagi proceeds to buy the opposite of everything Nishikata picks out, so that they can exchange with each other later. After the dodgeball Nishikata is also hungry, so he buys a cup of noodles to eat in-store, and Takagi does the same. This marks the first time just the two of them are out to eat, which Takagi observes makes it a date—inducing a hot ramen spit take from Nishikata.

He’s confident he can deny to anyone who sees them that they are on a date (i.e. intentionally spending time and sharing a meal together one-on-one), but when his two nerdy friends enter the shop, they slink in, make their purchases, and slink out without saying a word, as if no denial from Nishikata would even matter. They know what they saw!

With that, Takagi expresses her excitement about the coming camping trip, implying it will be yet another new setting for new forms of teasing (i.e. flirting). Kudos to Takagi for finding new ways to expand their interactions despite his outward reluctance, as well as to Nishikata for inwardly admitting it probably was a date they were having then and there.

UchiMusume – 06 – Shopping and Death

Dale’s most recent growth spurt has stretched his coat to tailoring limits. For whatever reason, replacing it requires him to return to his home town, far from the capital. Less surprising is Latina’s desire to come with him.

Dale and a Lady Elf Mage shop for Latina’s combat-grade magic gear, Ken takes Latina to Ruby’s dad’s blacksmith shop to buy a multi-purpose knife, and Rita reveals that she’s pregnant. When Dale and Latina finally do leave town, they travel the opposite direction in order to visit Latina’s dad’s grave… and slaughter two waves of woodland creatures along the way.

From the very beginning, the basis for this episode was a miss for me. Character age and aging are tricky to capture in anime and Dale’s change of height was difficult to identify. The very idea felt out of nowhere, as did Rita’s side plot about having a baby. None of the cast have grown emotionally since we first met them. Growing physically makes that disconnect even more apparent.

At least Latina’s dad’s grave looks like its flipping off the viewers. It gives me a gentle chuckle every time I see it.

While many things technically happened this week, few developments are consequential. Shopping is shopping, after all and unrelentingly uneventful but earnest nature of UchiMusu has become exasperating.

If UchiMusume ever gets to its mystery, or any plot arc whatsoever, it’s going to be rushed. Combined with its bare bones animation and nonexistent audio design, it is highly unlikely to feel satisfying. At the risk of repeating my previous reviews, UchiMusume has good bones but it lacks the skill to do anything at all with them.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 05 – Kyun Kyuun!

The Strong, Silent Type—That’s what Nishikata aims to be one day, not giving Takagi an opening to tease him, like the Dandy of the Old West, another show he watches. Of course, Nishikata always has an opening: his ticklish sides.

Also, Takagi is a fan of Dandy too, so the two play a game involving questions: the first person who can’t answer gets a bang—in this case, more tickling. Takagi asks loaded questions about her crush, who naturally can’t answer them.

In a short aside, Mina (who also watches Dandy) is thought by Yukari and Sanae to be kind due to her thick eyebrows, but since she initially thinks they’re mocking her, she says something very unkind about Yukari’s bangs that can’t really be taken back!

When Yukari has to flag Nishikata down for after-school committee activities, she feels bad about separating him and Takagi. When she sees him counting on his hand, she imagines he’s lamenting how many days he hasn’t been able to walk home with Takagi; in reality, he’s counting how many times she’s teased him, which is lower than usual due to their being apart.

Still, they don’t stay apart long, as when Nishikata’s birthday arrives and he’s sent out to pick up his birthday cake from the bakery, who does he run into but Takagi, once again resplendent in street clothes. Nishikata thinks going to get your own cake is pathetic, so tries to lie about where he’s going, but fails, because Takagi is headed to the same place.

Nishikata lets Takagi go ahead of him at the counter, hoping, for a moment, she’ll pick up her order and leave. Then he suddenly realizes it’s highly unlikely she’d actually do that! Instead, she takes his hand and places her order in it; it’s for him, as a gift for correctly guessing she was headed for the cake shop (But also because she knew it was his birthday, since she’d ordered ahead of time).

Once home, Nishikata rushes to his room to see what Takagi got him: some personalized cat-themed cookies and a talking 100% Unrequited Love keychain that goes “Kyun Kyuun”. Two sweet, thoughtful gifts from someone who knows him almost better than he knows himself. Daaaawwww.

The final segment involves sneezing, or rather, how people in Japan sneeze whenever someone’s talking about them. In a clever sequence, one sneeze is followed by the mention of someone else, who is then the next to sneeze, eventually looping back to Takagi, whom Nishikata almost notes has a cute sneeze, but holds his tongue.

But even if he can’t call Takagi cute to her face (and that’s how he’d truly beat her, by the way) he at least has the wherewithal to properly thank her for her gift. As Takagi tells him he’s welcome, she walks ahead of him. He can’t see it, but she’s blushing from his thanks. Kyun Kyuun indeed!

UchiMusume – 05 – Kidnapping is Fun!

Latina experiences snow. Later, guys try to kidnap her, while Dale is killing magic animals. Fortunately, the elderly thug intervenes and the guardsman take her home.

Uchi has it’s charms. It has enough charms to keep me watching. However, it does not have the muscle to cash in on its ‘darkness behind the happy facade’ theme and… well… there’s no plot developing in the meantime.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 04 – Brains Beat BOSS-Drinking Brawn

Nishikata is the best arm wrestler in his class, due to the fact he does three push-ups for every time Takagi teases him during the day. But all that extra brawn is for naught as long as he doesn’t exercise that most important of “muscles”—his head.

Case in point: Takagi genially challenges him to arm wrestle, and in the first round starts she pretends to be far weaker than him, and simply waits for him to let his guard down. In round two, Nishikata is done playing around, but is then flustered when she asks if he wants to hold hands walking home.

In both cases, Nishikata’s superior strength is neutralized by Takagi’s mind games. And yet all Nishikata will do as a result of his losses is do more push-ups. After all, he simply can’t predict every trick Takagi has up her sleeve. He could plan 100 moves in advance and she’d be ready with Move 101.

After Hina tries to make a big display of how mature and grown-up she is by staring out the window, sighing, and talking about the impermanence of things (mostly foods) which only leads to Yukari and Sanae laughing at her, Nishikata decides to show Takagi how mature he is by taking the advice of one of his guy mates (never a good idea) and drinking the bitterest coffee he can buy.

That coffee, clearly a non-copyright-infringing stand-in for Suntory BOSS, proves way too bitter for him to not make all the faces one expects of someone who hates coffee, and in addition to being a Teasing Master Takagi is also mastered reading Nishikata’s face.

She does the practical (and truly mature) thing and buys a delicious melon soda, and offers Nishikata a sip, pointing out it would be an indirect kiss. To accept her offer would actually show maturity on his part, since an indirect kiss shouldn’t be a big deal to a grown-up.

Not to mention Takagi isn’t about to stop teasing him even if he convincingly enjoyed a can of BOSS; she’d simply devise new ways to tease him. It’s what she does.

Finally, Takagi meets Nishikata for their walk to school, but for once without her bike. He recalls her saying something about the brakes on their last walk, and assumes that’s the reason why, but Takagi warns him that if he guesses wrong it’s an “instant loss,” so he ponders other reasons as they take detours not possible with a bike.

Ultimately, Nishikata sticks with his brake answer, thinking Takagi was throwing a bunch of other potential reasons (stairs, hopscotch, cats) as a distraction. But of course, he’s wrong. Takagi actually had two genuine reasons that he did not consider. One, she didn’t bring her bike because she wanted to watch him struggle to determine the reason. Two, she actually did, and does, want to hold hands with Nishikata, hence no bike.

Of course, whether it’s dropping her -san or sipping from her can or holding her hand, Nishikata remains nervously reticent, despite now being a second-year. Because he makes her laugh so much, this doesn’t seem to bother Takagi so much, but as Hina says, nothing lasts forever, so one would hope that applies to Takagi’s patience.

At some point, Nishikata is going to have to reckon with the fact a girl likes him, and he likes her back, and pursuing that is more important than winning and losing silly games.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 03 – A Matter of Honor(ifics)

Nishikata is eager to pull an April Fool’s Prank on Takagi, but immediately he plays himself by essentially asking her out on a date, a get-together independent from class or school. And for the record, Takagi is delighted to go on a date, even if Nishikata refuses to admit that’s exactly what it is.

The constant futile attempts to “get one over” on Takagi are simply a shallow front for the truth: Nishikata would rather Takagi were in his life than not. One need only see how morose he gets when imagining she’s not in his class when their second year starts.

Making full use of the “date” opening Nishikata so carelessly gave her, Takagi insists they attend to the sakura viewing with Yukari, Sanae, and Mina, who is constantly exercising so she can one day become a gravure model…though her friends note she is quite a bit removed from that future.

The only future Nishikata claims to want is one in which he’s not constantly teased by Takagi. Drawing from his beloved 100% Unrequited Love manga, he tries to throw her off balance by dropping the -san and simply calling her Takagi. While that certainly surprises Takagi, she’s actually fine with him doing it whenever he likes, and when challenging him to do so, he crumbles.

Still, when the second year begins and Nishikata’s desk is right back next to Takagi’s in class, he is fully committed to acting like an “upperclassman,” which means dropping her honorific. This also backfires when he proves utterly unable to follow through, combined with Takagi’s teasing. He eventually gets so caught up in it, he naturally drops -san again, which Takagi reiterates is not something she’d ever mind.

Hardly any other anime around gets away with basically rolling out the same thing over and over again, yet it almost never gets old. Perhaps that’s partly because there are always little hints and indications of progress being made on the romance front. Takagi being ever more assertive doesn’t hurt either; her “enough lies, let’s just talk” line was particularly satisfying, as was her recitation of lines from the 100% anime both she and Nishikata watch.

UchiMusume – 04 – Calling Social Services

 

Latina begins her first year of school but a psychotic nun with PTSD is serving as her teacher. While friends run to her rescue, Latina is traumatized by the nun’s physical and emotional abuse. So much so that she breaks off her other horn and nearly dies in the process.

Chloe’s slap to the face and Dales gentle reminder that everyone eventually dies, and that everyone is scared of that fact, cuts through Latina’s self hatred and fear of being left alone. Then she sings off-tune at her recovery party.

The Verdict: Like last week, UchiMusume hints at seriously dark undertones, especially surrounding Dale himself. He apparently wields significant influence — enough to threaten the church itself! However, like last week, this contrast doesn’t have the art style to back it up with emotional punch, and the goofey side is too damn goofey to take seriously.

Machikado Mazoku – 02 – A Demon Girl and Her Money are Soon Parted

Yuuko may consider Momo her mortal enemy, but the feeling isn’t mutual, and that isn’t just down to because Yuuko is so weak (she is) or because she’s so powerful (she says she’s not even that strong as magical girls go). Momo could always just ignore Yuuko and retire to her big modern house after school, but she doesn’t.

She entertains and indulges Yuuko at every turn, as if she’s happy for the company, even if that company wants to drain her blood. At the same time, she could just be playing a very shrewd and subtle long game, with the end goal of keeping Yuuko broke and powerless, which Yuuko’s mom says is the magical girl M.O.

When Yuuko reports her lack of progress, her mom decides to up her monthly allowance to 500 yen (~$5), an extravagant (by Yoshida family standards) budget with which to purchase weaponry to defeat Momo. Her friends end up taking her to the mall and Momo tags along, further proof that she either wants to be friends with Yuuko or wants to bankrupt her, or both!

Looking around in vain for a weapon under 450 yen (she gave Momo 50 as part of a 10-installment repayment plan for train fare) exhausts Yuuko and makes her hungry, and Momo and her friends point her in the direction of an udon restaurant, where she spends all but 120 yen. Momo then points out a soda machine, and Yuuko buys a coke with the last of her cash.

Clearly, neither a war of fists or a financial battle will be enough to put a dent in the pink magical girl. Perhaps nothing Yuuko can muster will ever make her a legitimate threat, even with Momo stepping back from her magical girl duties, she’s still a Level 99 against her 1. That’s why Lilith is poised to join the fray. But more likely than not she won’t be much of a threat to Momo either…

While perhaps not quite as strong as it’s first episode (few second episodes are), I’m still very much enjoying MachiMazo’s blazing color, rapid-fire comedy and cheeky irreverence. So I’ll be back for more!

UchiMusume – 03 – Pie and Dragons

Our tale continues with Dale lamenting that he needs to go to work and leave Latina behind. There is much rolling on the ground and shouting like a child. Awkwardly, every character that deals with Dale from that point forward channels what we the audience are feeling: Dale is acting out of character and it is very very annoying.

While Dale is away, Ken teaches Latina how to bake Shepherd’s Pie. This incidentally reveals that Ken is not only a retired bad ass adventurer, but that he personally mentored Dale along the way. From the glimpse we see, Ken’s axes are probably the same axes hanging on the tavern wall.

Then back with Dale, we get murder. Emotionless, trouble free, murder. Apparently, in addition to Adventuring, Dale serves as an assassin for hire. In this particular case, he is killing supporters of the 7th Devil Lord. A young woman is among them and she looks, perhaps suspiciously, like she could be Latina’s mother.

UchiMusume’s sudden dark turns were a pleasant surprise this week. In addition to Dale’s brief kill spree, Latina reveals that her Father died because he wouldn’t abandon her. Emphasis on Latina being the one cast out by Demon kind. Latina, not her family, is the one in trouble.

The Verdict: There is value in contrasting Dale’s dopey side with his murder machine profession. However, the dopey side is too annoying to watch. This is worrisome because UchiMusume has good bones that are already straining to support the weight of its lack luster production values.

Also, the magic system of goofy long winded chanting is kinda stupid.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 02 – Breaking the Ice

It may be Summer IRL, but the days are getting colder in the world of Takagi-san, such that puddles made by rain a day ago are frozen solid the next morning. Takagi can tell Nishikata has an unbearable urge to pick that ice up, and so makes a contest out of it.

Naturally, despite Nishikata’s extensive activity in such training, she gets him to drop it by declaring whoever breaks their ice first loses, and has to warm the hands of the winner. He’s about to take her hand when she asks for the hand warmer he offered earlier. A reprieve!

Another morning, Nishikata believes he has a surefire way to get Takagi to lose, by telling her he changed something about his appearance and challenging her to correctly identify that change. This backfires spectacularly when Takagi gives him a thorough visual examination, even tickling his side and getting very close up to smell him.

In the end, Takagi correctly concludes he trimmed his hair, though whether she was going with the answer with the best odds is a mystery. Nishikata’s punishment is to try to guess how she’ll change her appearance tomorrow, knowing full well he’d never look her over as thoroughly as she just did.

After an in-between in which Mina laughs at Yukari’s bangs which she trimmed too far, Valentine’s Day arrives, and Nishikata, while telling himself he doesn’t expect any chocolate from Takagi or anyone else, is still expecting chocolate.

As Mina learns the hard way, Tanabe-sensei doesn’t tolerate the distribution of chocolate on his watch. Mano almost works up the courage to hand Nakai some non-obligatory chocolate, but his ever-present friends ruin her timing and she runs off.

Nakai may be dense but has the good sense to chase after Mano, who is able to successfully give him the chocolate (which he tells Tanabe-sensei is a book she borrowed). As for Nishikata, he goes the whole day without being given any chocolate, only to find a box in his shoe locker, obviously left there by Takagi, who tries to get him to identify her as the one who put it there.

Nishikata doesn’t give in, so Takagi keeps the mind games going by offering him a small piece of obligatory chocolate, while strongly implying that not all the chocolate she gave him is obligatory. Her status as giver of the shoe locker chocolate remains unsaid, but like many things between these two, it doesn’t really have to be said.

There’s no one else from which Nishikata would get non-obligatory chocolate, and there’s no one else to whom Takagi would give chocolate.

Machikado Mazoku – 01 (First Impressions) – Don’t Think This Means You’ve Won!

One morning Yoshida Yuuko wakes up with horns and a tail, and her mother reveals that her family are descendents of the “Dark Clan,” whose powers were sealed by the Magical Girls of the “Light Clan” long ago. It’s why her family lives in poverty. But now that she bears the horns and tail of a demon girl, she is named “Shadow Mistress Yuuko” (sent by fax) and must seek out and defeat a Magical Girl in order to restore her clan’s former glory!

The casual blending of the supernatural and the mundane, and the superb, energetic performance of Kohara Konomi, form the beating heart of this slick little slice-of-life comedy that’s also a charming underdog story and a send up of the demon/magical girl genre in which it operates. The moment the town’s magical girl, Chiyoda Momo, rescues her “mortal enemy” from a truck (transforming in just 0.01 seconds!), you know this is going to be a wonderfully extreme mismatch.

At school (which the narrator describes very literally when Yuuko asks “What’s up with this school?”), Yuuko’s friends don’t seem all that concerned with her horns, and soon point her in the direction of Chiyoda Momo, for whom Yuuko is absolutely no match.

Yuuko flubs her words when trying to formally initiate a duel, and Momo doesn’t bother dodging her attacks, letting Yuuko wear herself out. Like when she rescued and then fed her, Momo, while polite, is just barely restraining her arrogance and superiority.

Unlike Yuuko, Momo is rolling in cash from the look of her postmodern mansion and chic decor—but she seems to live all alone with her cat, no one to share all that square footage. She’s bored and alone! When she saved Yuuko it had been a long time since she even had to transform.

Even if they’ll remain “mortal enemies”, perhaps Yuuko could be someone to make things interesting in Momo’s life for a change. As for Yuuko, she’s resolved to improve her offensive capabilities (leveling up from…Level 0), training beside the river as her sister spots her. As she exclaims every time she’s retreated from a fight she knows she’d lose, Momo hasn’t won yet—not as long as Yuuko still has the will to fight.

Machikado Mazoku is a lot of fun, and is backed up by above-average production values and exquisite attention to detail (Momo wears Crocs! The background characters play very goofy games!). It constantly makes fun of itself with characters’ side commentary, and the jokes-per-minute ratio is quite good. All in all, a solid way to spend twenty minutes of your Thursday afternoon.

UchiMusume – 02 – Dead Dad and Rainbows

Dale and Latina are settling into their new routine as young adventure dad and adopted demon girl… and Latina is doing a much better job! She’s learning human language very quickly, helping prepare food and cleaning around the pub. These efforts are melting thuggish hearts left and right but Dale is an emo mess.

Buckling under Rita’s stern guidance, he lets Latina join Ken on a shopping trip and buggers off to work. As luck would have it, Latina gets lost on said trip but makes friends with a pack of local kids by the end.

She also shows us that she can cast magic and tragic love for rainbows.

The Good: UchiMusume nails all the feels about watching children grow up, including the nervous adults watching it happen. It also sneaks in subtle world building elements, like side conversations about work scarcity and the dysfunction of job searching now that quests get posted to the internet/magic job board.

The Bad: Dear lord was Dale’s OTT character shift hard to watch. From gushing over Latina’s cute pronunciation errors to moping at the bar, his characterization lost the grounding it carried last week.

The Verdict: Episode two continues UM’s trip down safe-feels-lane but it wasn’t uneventful. Better editing and less Dale could have added contrast to Latina getting lost but it worked as a platform to introduce more kids her age to the plot. It was also fun to learn that Dale’s part of town is the sketchy part of town in the eyes of the rest of the city.

My concerns are long term. UM has to be about more than cuteness and more than day to day life at a pub in a magic world. Introducing the mystery of Latina’s broken horn and dead dad and the hints that some crime may be involved will feel cheap otherwise.

For now, the cuteness is good enough. Bring on all the feels!